If you do any kind of writing for your job, you know that a rich vocabulary is an important tool. Here's a fun way to add to that toolbox: FreeRice.Com - an online vocabulary test. (From Daphne Gray-Grant in her weekly newsletter):
Basically an online vocabulary test, much like the SAT, it presents you with a series of multiple choice definitions. Your answer to each question is scored immediately and you move on to the next one. (You can set options so that when you leave your computer the site "remembers" your score for the next time.)
The site automatically adjusts to your vocabulary level. When you get a word wrong, the next word provided is from an easier level. When you get three consecutive words right, you move to a higher degree of difficulty. (Experts say that this constant fine-tuning of levels is the best way to ensure you are learning and not just playing a game.)
FreeRice has 50 levels in total, but staff say it's rare for people to get past level 48. Go ahead; knock yourself out. But you're probably wondering about the site's odd name. And therein lies the best news of all. Each time you get a word right, the site's sponsors donate enough money to pay for 20 grains of rice for the United Nations' World Food Program. That may sound like a pitifully small amount, but the site has already raised more than five billion grains of rice in less than two months.
Want to make your customers happy when things go wrong? Add more mea culpas to your conversations. Software developer Joel Spolsky has this advice for remarkable customer service: admit that it's your fault. Spolsky admits that's not easy for many of us:
It's completely natural to have trouble saying "It's my fault." That's human. But those three words are going to make your angry customers much happier. So you're going to have to say them. And you're going to have to sound like you mean it. So start practicing.
Say "It's my fault" a hundred times one morning in the shower, until it starts to sound like syllabic nonsense. Then you'll be able to say it on demand.
In fact, Spolsky recommends that you memorize a number of phrases, including, "I'm sorry, it's my fault," and "That's terrible. Please tell me what happened so I can make sure it never happens again." In this age of generally awful customer service, you'll be amazed at how fast this approach can defuse a tense situation, providing an opportunity to solve a problem and prove that you're better than the competition.
We also won a Merit Award for our own new website, BusinessVoice.com. Steve Timofeev and Melanie Allen from WebArt did some fine work on all these projects. We couldn't be happier to have those two on our side.
We won our third Crystal of the night for a humorous On Hold Messaging production we produced for ourselves. Among others, it features this message about Farmer Brown and his On Hold Messaging farm.
Our congratulations to all the 2007 Crystal Award winners.
Is it just me or does the audio from a typical TV commercial pod sound more like what's on my iPod?
Armed recently with an old school pad of paper and pen, I was able to jot down - from memory - 10 current TV spots that rely heavily on a famous tune, but hardly at all on the spoken word. I'll need another 10 or 12 years before I can separate the sound of Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" from my mind's eye image of a Cadillac kicking up desert dust. But that's the point. You may not ordinarily think of Cadillac on any given day, but now, if you hear "Rock and Roll" on the local classic rock station during the drive home, I'll bet you a cheese danish that an image of an Escalade pops into your head.
That connection can be so strong that Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" isn't just "Rock and Roll" anymore - it's "that Cadillac song."
More proof: Which products do you think of when you think of these songs?
"Like A Rock" by Bob Seger
"I'm Free" by the Rolling Stones
"Don't You Want Me" by Human League.
All of these tunes have a positive connection with Chevy Trucks, Chase Visa, and those chunky Chips Ahoy cookies, respectively. Some companies have even elected to use lesser-known music to form an almost mutually exclusive relationship between the piece and the product. Most folks wouldn't know Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo: Hoe-Down" by name, but when it's set to the sweeping images of families enjoying hunks of meat and paired with the tagline "Beef: It's What's for Dinner!" it becomes instantly recognizable.
Tapping into the powerful alignment of music and a famous spokesperson, American Express rolled several slices of sounds into one commerical. During the famous "Ellen's Dance" spot, dog-dealer Ellen DeGeneres dances her way through the day to such tunes as "Car Wash," "Respect," and "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." Clever, American Express, clever - conveying energy by capitalizing on just seconds of famous songs.
Aligning your business with music, whether through advertisements or in your environment, affects how your customers and prospects perceive your company. Do it right, and you can achieve top-of-mind awareness every time "your" song hits the airwaves.
Marsha Yudkin is a marketing consultant who has mentored hundreds of people over the years. In her October 10th newsletter she writes:
"Some mentorees assume that serving clients means being subservient. They're surprised to learn that as a consultant, you don't have to accept the client's definition of the problem. Indeed, fulfilling the client's request may lead them to a dead end. Instead, explain why they'd reach their goal faster by taking a different route."
Do you bill yourself as a consultant? If so, do you have enough confidence in your abilities to proactively lead your clients in a specific direction, or are you just reacting to suggestions they make?
Here's one example of how BusinessVoice serves clients in a consultative manner. We're just shy of insistent when it comes to updating our clients' On Hold Messaging productions because we know that, as with stagnant online and broadcast copy, stale on hold content loses its ability to engage callers and elicit a specific response. This is why we contact clients proactively about updates. It's why we bring copy points and marketing ideas to the table. It's why we monitor our key and major clients online to stay aware of news and changes within their companies and industries. It's one of the ways we serve our clients as a consultant, not just a vendor.
So, are you consulting and leading your clients to success...or merely reacting to their phone calls?
These days, there aren't many jobs more difficult than doing PR for an oil company. (Now that the tobacco companies are down for the count, these are the folks we really love to hate.)
So hats off to Chevron and their new "Human Energy" campaign. It's subtle yet thought-provoking and re-frames the debate while clearly stating their mission and why we need them. And those are elements that can be put to work with any product. Check it out and see if your attitude doesn't change a bit, even for only a moment. That's the power of effective marketing.
I was watching real-time TV last night, and I specify real-time because I have a DVR and usually fast-forward through the commercials. (I know, shame on me. I do work in marketing after all.)
I saw a great spot for Ask.com created by the company's marketing team and ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The spot utilizes a direct comparison message, highlighting what Ask.com offers, and emphasizing what their competitors, specifically Google, do not. Watch the spot here and see for yourself.
Can your business do this? Absolutely. In global business today, we often forget how important the little things are - what unique attributes or services we offer to our customers vs. those that our competitors offer. The great thing is that it doesn't matter how big a competitor they are. Your business has something they don't, whether it's a fresh, young staff, an award-wining sales team, or just a terrific cup of coffee.
Consider that according to comScore, Ask.com had only 5.1 percent of searches in April, compared to Google's 49.7 percent. It's like David vs. Goliath; but if I remember correctly David had a rock and Goliath didn't. Try harnessing what's different about your organization and capitalizing on those unique attributes. You might find that your "rock" makes all the difference.
Besides the obvious references to sex, home financing and pharmaceuticals - separately or together - she says there are a number of normal words that can set off the spam filters. Here are a few examples:
This looks like a great list to print and post next to your computer. Just be sure to check it every time you're creating a subject line in an email marketing piece.
Netflix pioneered the concept and has 6.7 million customers. Blockbuster, with 3.6 million customers, is now experiencing faster growth with their Total Access plan that lets you get an extra DVD - in addition to the mail delivery - by exchanging it in the store. (An offer that is cannibalizing Blockbuster's store sales in order to boost the mail program.)
Still, it's "Advantage Blockbuster," right?
Well, Netflix has decided to change the rules too - for customer service. According to the New York Times, Netflix shut down its email customer service and opened a 24/7 toll-free call center, choosing live voices over keystrokes. This is no offshore outsourcing either; the call center is located in Portland, Oregon and staffed by lots of friendly people who are directed to take as much time as they need on the phone to handle customer concerns.
Experts say it's the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing in customer service. And that's good, because it's a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that differentiates Netflix from Blockbuster.
This battle is far from over, but there's a lesson here for all of us. Having a USP that focuses on superior customer service may be a great defense against a competitor that's willing to lose money in order to beat you.